Jefferson County, CO Commissioner Race Headed for Recount

With State Senator Evie Hudak narrowly clinching victory against Lang Sias in SD-19, there remains but one race left to be decided in Jefferson County, that between Democrat Casey Tighe and incumbent Republican John Odom for county commissioner.

Thursday's unofficial tally, which includes all regular ballots cast in the county as well as those of overseas and military voters, gives Tighe a 251 vote edge. Although about 7,500 provisional ballots are presently being tabulated, the .08% margin separating the two candidates is over six times smaller than the .5% margin which necessitates an official recount. Neither candidate is expected to pull enough provisional votes to move the needle decisively in their favor.

The official election results will be certified no later than Friday, November 23rd. If the commissioner race remains this tightly contested, a recount of all Jefferson County ballots is statutorily required to be completed by December 6th.

By dint of his current lead, Tighe is the odds-on favorite to ascend to the Board of County Commissioners. As Josh Liss, Jeffco's deputy of elections, tells the Arvada Press, "[W]hat we've seen in recent years is that the provisional ballots seem to reflect what we see on election night." [Emphasis Added]

Worse still for the incumbent, if Tighe maintains his advantage after provisional ballots are counted and the results are certified, there's almost no chance that a recount will lead to an outcome in Odom's favor, as the Arvada Press continues:

The optical vote-counting machines used by Jeffco, which Liss described as "simple and reliable," would be checked for accuracy.

Then the recount would begin, which in the case of the Odom and Tighe contest would involve recounting every ballot in the county. The process is expected to take three to four days.

Liss said the county's equipment is rarely wrong the first time around though. "I don't think we've ever seen a recount in Jeffco where the result changes."

When Tighe is inevitably declared the victor, he'll become the only elected Democrat anywhere in Jefferson County government. But he probably won't hold that distinction for long.

That the race is even this close at all, let alone the fact that Tighe will almost certainly win the seat, signals a shifting tide in Jefferson County. Jeffco voters, of course, have long been content to send Republicans to the Taj Mahal by default. Former County Commissioner Kathy Hartman was the first Democrat elected to the Board in 14 years, and even she was ignominiously dispatched by Don Rosier in 2010.

Odom's failure to truly fight for relection can be attributed to these electoral trends. Why should he have had anything to worry about when few Republicans have ever lost their bids for second terms? Although Tighe's triumph speaks to his counterpart's electoral arrogance, it's also evidence that Republicans can no longer take their cozy perch in county government for granted.

Without any campaign or infrastructure to speak of, Odom garnered just under 50% of the vote. By comparison, Tighe's ragtag effort earned him just over 50%. That means that just being a Republican is no longer enough to win in Jeffco -- GOP candidates at the countywide level will actually have to work keep their hitherto ironclad control of county government.

Tighe, with no previous name ID, few fundraising connections, and a less-than-professional operation, was a far cry from a perfect candidate. And yet the Democrat is on course to eke out a victory. Just imagine the trouncing Odom would've received if he was challenged someone with a better profile?

Odom's campaign should serve as a warning for Commissioners Don Rosier, Faye Griffin, and other Republicans in county government: You're now accountable to voters in Jefferson County. Act accordingly.  

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